“It was a great game to play. In the first period we couldn’t believe that we could be better than them but we believed in ourselves and started to play better. We were great in defence with all the bodies and didn’t allow them too many good chances,” Gonzalo said.
Playing a division higher, Kazakhstan entered the game as the favourite and had its chances for a win outshooting their opponent 38-13. But that didn’t seem to impress Spain too much. They continued the way they ended the game against Italy by battling hard and believing in their chances.
Although the Spaniards did not have many chances in the first period. Kazakhstan outshot their opponent 11-0 and had good opportunities especially late in the game. With four minutes left Spain needed a nice pad save from Gonzalo on a Malika Aldabergenova shot during a power play. Two minutes later Erin McLean tried it alone against several Spanish skaters, lost the puck, had a takeaway but Gonzalo saved the shot. Also a Pernesh Ashimova breakaway attempt didn’t break the scoreless first-period tie.
The long-awaited first goal for the Kazakhs came at 6:35 of the middle frame. Roxanne Rioux skated toward the Spanish net, deked defender Elena Alvarez and lifted the puck over Gonzalo’s shoulder.
As long as the Kazakhs had to patiently wait for the lead, as short-lived was the joy about it. 14 seconds after the next face-off Spain used one of its first good opportunities to tie the game. Vega Munoz and Haizea Fernandez de Romarategui created a 2-on-1 opportunity in front of Arina Shyokolova’s net. Munoz tried it with a shot rather than passing to the centre and found the hole high in the near corner.
The Spaniards even had the chance for more after a penalty against Rioux for boarding, A shot from Elena Ramos went through Shyokolova’s five-hole but stopped in front of the line. The Kazakh defence managed to clear the situation.
Late in the second period the Kazakhs ran into penalty trouble with both Rioux and Anna Pyatkova in the penalty box. A shot from ten meters by Spanish captain Elena Alvarez gave Spain the 2-1 lead at 17:14 and also ended the game for Shyokolova, who was replaced by Darya Dmitrieva.
Spain had its chances in the third period thanks to two penalties against Kazakhstan while the Kazakhs put pressure on the Spanish net with equal strength. At 11:27 they managed to put the puck behind Gonzalo. After a long shot from Munira Sayakhatkyzy, McLean was at the right spot to capitalize on the rebound and tie the game at two.
The Kazakhs continued to put pressure on the Spanish net but Gonzalo, who moved north to play for HV71 Jonkoping in the Swedish SDHL, stayed strong and made 36 saves during 65 minutes of play. A shootout had to decide the winner of this game and it was Sofia Scilipoti with Spain’s first shot who scored the only goal in five rounds of penalty shot.
After McLean had missed with the Kazakhs’ fifth shot, the Spaniards cleared the bench and skated toward Gonzalo to celebrate the historic success.
“We are so excited. When we came here, we were not the second-best team and now this is what we are. They are better than us but today they weren’t. We won, we played hard and that’s where we are. We are Spain and we are here to stay,” Spanish captain Elena Alvarez said.
When it comes to the race for tournament win, the two points from two games were too little for Spain to finish in first place. Even if they reached the five-point mark after tomorrow’s game against Chinese Taipei, they wouldn’t be able to finish better than second, which in itself would be a success.
It will therefore remain a battle between host Italy and Kazakhstan for tournament win tomorrow and the Italians can improve their position before that game when they play Chinese Taipei tonight. Currently Italy has three points from one game and Kazakhstan four from two.